Just this past weekend, I had the privilege of spending time with my 105-year-old grandmother. Still a kick in the pants, she claims her secret to longevity is a lifetime of exercise and “eating anything and everything.” While some nutrition experts may be cringe at that last part of her statement, I see how it has attributed to my grandmother’s long life, so I think I might subscribe to her philosophy.
Grandma truly has no ailments. She commented that her primary care physician gave her a clean bill of health last month. “There is nothing wrong with you, Kora,” he told her. To which she promptly replied, “Well, now, there has to be, because I am still here!”
The only physical degeneration I have seen in my grandmother over the past few years is the gradual compression of her spinal column, causing her to lose a few inches in stature. While a normal spine has 33 vertebrae, she claims she has lost a few, as she went from 5 foot 5 inches tall to just below four feet tall. She has experienced some spinal compression fractures, yet fortunately does not have any associated pain with these. This led me to do some research on spinal fractures as a whole and how they affect a person.
Spinal fractures are different than a broken arm or leg. When a vertebra in the spine is broken or dislocated, it can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord. The most common cause of such a fracture is a car accident, a fall, a gunshot wound, or a sports injury. (Thankfully, Grandma does not drive anymore, she is not on any sports team, which I know of, and she does not own a hand gun. As for falling, well, that is her most likely opponent.)
Depending upon the severity of the injury, you may notice pain, trouble with walking, or an inability to move your arms or legs. Many fractures can be healed with conservative measures, but the more severe fractures may require an invasive approach to realign the bones.
While spinal fractures can occur anywhere along the spine, five to ten percent of them occur in the neck region, also known as the cervical region. A whopping 64 percent occur in the lower back area.